Madden on Excellence: Adding Excellence to Your "A" Race

As the 2017 season comes to a close it is essential to start reviewing your season highlights and challenges and start the necessary planning to build your next season around your “A” race. Your “A” race should be the pinnacle of your season. It is the one race that you really want to master and demonstrate a high level of excellence. It is the one race where you will bring your “A” game and get a huge return on your season investment. Furthermore, experiencing excellence during this race will be the litmus test of how well you followed your season training program, nutritional program, advice from your coach, and execution of your race strategy.

What does it feel like to experience excellence during your “A” race? It should be the one race during the year when everything falls into place. Your taper should have been spot-on, where you have reduced your volume of training, intensity of training, and your mental fitness is starting to peak. Your pre-race nutrition plan was executed flawlessly. Your equipment has been checked, double-checked, and triple-checked. You wake-up on race day feeling fresh and fierce.

You arrive at the race extra early to avoid the chaos and anxiety that will take away from your performance. You listen to your inner voice that is sharing positive affirmations. You are confident yet know that you will need to stay mentally sharp throughout the race. Your warm-up goes smoothly. You approach the starting line and mentally transition into a self-hypnotic trance that many refer to as being in “the zone.” The zone is that special place where your mind, body, and spirit are fully engaged in a challenging endeavor, yet at the same time, everything is effortless. It is often considered a feeling where it is more play than work. You’re calm, relaxed, and see yourself doing well from start to finish.

As the starting gun goes off, you hit the water and start to exhale. Your swimming stroke rate increases and you achieve your race pace right away. Your sighting is impeccable and you’re able to draft off someone nearby. Before you know it, you are already done with your swim, going through T1 in a matter of seconds.

You jump on your bike and begin to hit your pre-planned cadence. You monitor your power and begin your nutritional plan. Your pedaling is flawless as you continue to spin some amazing circles and your efficiency is second to none. Your nutrition and pacing is ideal on the bike and you have the right attitude to get through T2 as quickly as possible.

You begin the run with a nice cadence and are fully aware of your pacing and effort and find your “sweet spot” or rhythm. As you go through aid stations, you grab the necessary nutrients that will fuel you while you remember the importance of remaining patient. Near the final stages of your run, you break up the distance into smaller segments which helps you maintain your focus all the way to the finish line. Following the race, your family, friends, and competitors are shocked and amazed by what you accomplished. You are beyond fulfilled and content that you achieved something so incredible and something that you will cherish for several years.

Knowing that your entire season should be designed to prepare you to have an exceptional day throughout your “A” race, start to plan for a season where you embrace the philosophy to “commit not to quit” as you approach every single workout, weekly training session, and build-up race. Start to plan for periods of stress and periods of rest. Start to develop your goals and objective objectively, either with a close friend or your coach. Start to think about the small changes you need to execute that will provide you with a bigger return on your investment. Moreover, objectively assess the time, money, and resources that you will contribute to your “A” race without alienating your friends, family, and professional career.

More importantly, understand that reaching a high level of mastery and excellence in our sport takes years and years. Continuous improvement is hard work and, at times, all of us question why we make so many sacrifices in preparation for our “A race. However, when you reach this high level of distinction at this race, is truly is a surreal experience. It is a dreamlike encounter that words cannot describe. It is something that is transformational and can have a positive impact on all aspects of your life.

In closing, my wish is that every triathlete, whether novice, mid-packer, or super competitive experience this high-level distinction for the upcoming 2018 season.

KURT MADDEN is an IRONMAN Certified Coach, USAT Certified Coach Level I, and TriDot Coach with an M.A. in Exercise Physiology. He is a 3-time top ten IRONMAN World Championships finisher, a 2-time winner of the Ultraman World Championships, a 2-time top ten finisher at the Leadville 100-Mile Trail Run, a 2-time IRONMAN North American age group champion, a 2-time IRONMAN All World Athlete age group world champion, a 25-time IRONMAN finisher and a 3-time Ultraman finisher. In July of 2016, he founded TriPrime LLC and is currently coaching 50 triathletes throughout the world. He and his wife, Kelly, live in San Diego.

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